Hot Spots on DogsLast updated: August 2, 2016
Pyotraumatic dermatitis is an acute, rapidly developing surface bacterial skin infection that occurs as a result of self-inflicted trauma. These lesions are created when the animal licks, chews, scratches and rubs a focal area of skin in response to an itchy, painful stimulus. Because the lesions are warm to the touch, they are often called "hot spots."
Hot spots are usually a seasonal problem that become more common when the weather is hot and humid because fleas are the most common irritating stimulus. Other causes of hot spots include allergies, tick bites, burrs, mosquitos and ear infections. Hot spots are common in dogs, especially in thick-coated, long-haired breeds. They are rarely seen in cats.
- The circular lesions often appear as hot, red and moist areas. They occur most frequently on the trunk, tail base, lateral thigh, neck and face.
- Some hair loss over the area occurs as lesion progresses.
- Intense itching (pruritus) quickly makes the issue worse and more painful.
Treatment and OutcomeThe underlying cause should be identified and removed for successful treatment. If the spots are caused by fleas, we can take the necessary steps for flea control. If they are caused by allergies, we can treat the allergies.
- Carefully clip the hair over and surrounding the lesions to allow the spots to dry. If lesions are large, sedation may be helpful.
- The lesion will be sore, so gentle cleansing with Vet Basics® ChlorConazole Shampoo is important.
- Applying a medicated spray to remove the itch is essential to resolving hot spots. Using Pramoxine Anti-Itch Spray on lesions twice daily eliminates scratching and treats the lesion. Use Vet Basics® ChlorConazole™ Wipes for skin folds or hard-to-spray areas of the face.
- Avoid medications that will dry or sting. Stinging draws attention to the site and increases self-trauma from licking or rubbing. Alcohol-containing products should be avoided.
- Prevent your pet from biting, licking or scratching the affected area.
If the underlying cause can be identified, preventing hot spots can be easy by simply managing the cause—controlling fleas, cleaning the ears, treating allergies, etc. Other methods of prevention include keeping a pet's hair trimmed short during the summer and giving regular medicated baths. Keeping long coats well groomed also helps prevent hot spots.
- The outcome is much better if the underlying cause can be corrected or controlled. If fleas are the issue, try using a monthly topical (Frontline or Advantage) to remove them.
- Lesions may be slow to heal, but gentle cleansing of the area on a daily basis will soothe the area and speed recovery.
- Owners should wash their hands after treating an infected animal. Although human infections are rare, the microorganism could present a danger to owners who are immunosuppressed.
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.